Lesson 13 – Past participles, passive and active

In the previous lesson, lesson 12, we looked at present participles. In this lesson, we will look at past participles, both passive and active.

A short YouTube version is available here. [Expand to the full article to be able to click on the link]

We have encountered the past passive participle many times in our stories. It is very commonly used in classical Sanskrit to make sentences. For example in the Hitopadeśa story, “The Brahmin and his jar”, in lesson 11, we saw the sentence tena viṣuvatsaṃkrāntau saktupūrṇaśarāvaḥ prāptaḥ, meaning “He got a pot full of barley grits on the day of the spring equinox.”

prāpta is pra + āpta. āpta here is a past passive participle of the class 5 root √āp (“obtain”) as we explained in the lesson. In classical Sanskrit it is common to say “By him was got….” instead of “He got…”. This “was got” is what is rendered by the past passive participle āpta.

Formation of the past passive participle

The past passive participle is formed by adding one of -ta -त, -ita -इत or -na -न to the unstrengthened root.

The formation of the past passive participle is very complicated.

Past Passive participles with -ta -त

First of all, when the “-ta” is added to the root, consonant sandhis apply. Second, many verbs undergo modifications like adding of nasal, dropping of nasal, saṃprasāraṇa (we will learn what this is later), weakening of “ā” to “i”, weakening of “am” and “an” to “a” etc.


Class 9 root √krī : krī + ta –> krīta

Class 5 root √āp  : āp + ta –> āpta

Class 2 root √i : i +ta –> ita

Class 1 root √gam : (dropping of nasal / weakening) gam + ta –> gata

Class 1 root √kr̥ṣ : kr̥ṣ + ta –> kr̥ṣṭa

Class 1 root √tyaj : tyaj + ta –> tyakta

Class 4 root √budh : budh + ta –> buddha

Class 1 root √dah : dah + ta –> dagdha

Class 1 root √śaṃs : (dropping of nasal) śaṃs + ta –> śasta

Class 1 root √vah : (saṃprasāraṇa) vah + ta –> ūḍha

Please refer to a dictionary for the past passive participle of verbs

Past Passive participles with -ita -इत

All class 10 roots from their past passive participle with -ita. It uses the same verb stem to which the personal ending are added for conjugation. Some other roots also form the past passive participle with -ita. Here they use the unstrengthened root.


Class 10 root √cur : gives corita

Class 1 root √jīv : jīv + ita –> jīvita

Past Passive participles with -na -न


Class 9 root √lū : lū + na –> lūna

Class 3 root hā : gives hīna

Usage of the past passive participle

It is used like the English past passive participle in “-ed” or “-en”. “obtained”, “stolen” etc.

The past passive participle is declined like “a” ending masculines and neuters and “ā” ending feminines.

  1. It can be used as a simple adjective: coritaṃ dhanam – “stolen wealth”; coritāt dhanāt – “from stolen wealth”, coritā sampat – “stolen wealth” etc.
  2. It is used instead of a verb (as we saw in the beginning of the lesson): tena saktupūrṇaśarāvaḥ prāptaḥ “by him a pot full of barley grits was got” instead of “He got a pot full of barley grits”
  3. A similar sentence to 2 above can also be constructed in an impersonal manner (that is without a subject). In this case the past passive participle appears in the nominative neuter: iti tenoktam – “It was said thus by him – He said thus”

Note: The past passive participle can have an active sense in verbs like √gam (and other verbs of motion), √jan and some others.

Examples: sa tatra gataḥ – “He went there”; putro jātaḥ – “a son is born” etc.

The past passive participle occurs very often in the three Hitopadeśa stories we have encountered so far. So I will not be giving any further examples.

Note: Like the present participle the past passive participle can be negated by the prefix “a-” (“an-” before vowel)

Examples: an-āgata (“not come”) a-corita (“not stolen”) etc.

Past active participle

The past active participle masculine and neuter is formed by adding “-vant” and the feminine is formed by adding “-vatī” to the past passive participle.

We saw the past active participle in the Hitopadeśa story, “The Brahmin and his jar”

anāgatavatīṃ cintāṃ kr̥tvā yastu prahr̥ṣyati  etc.

Note the word anāgatavatīm

anāgatavatīm – accusative singular of feminine adj anāgatavatī (“of the future”)

  • anāgatavatī is feminine of an-āgatavant (“not arrived”, meaning “future”)
    • ā + gatavant – gatavant is past active participle of class 1 root  √gam “go”
    • a past passive participle is converted into past active participle by addition of vant (vatī for feminine)

Note: There is no English equivalent to the past active participle.

Like the past passive participle, the past active participle is also used as an adjective. The adjective is then often used as a noun.

For example: tyaktavān  “he who has forsaken” etc.

Like the past passive participle, it is commonly used as a substitute for a verb:

Example: sa tad tyaktavān (“he has forsaken that”).

It is equivalent to the past passive participle usage  tena tad tyaktam (“by him that was forsaken”)

Note 1: where the past passive participle has an active sense, it can be used interchangeably with the past active participle

for example sa tatra gataḥ is equivalent to sa tatra gatavān

Note 2: The past active participle also can be negated by the prefixing of “a-” (“an-” before vowel) as we saw in an-āgatavatī


Read carefully the three Hitopadeśa stories in lessons 4, 8 and 11. This will give you a good understanding of the past participles.


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